FOUR former officials of the Bureau of Corrections and former inmates will appear today before the Senate inquiry into anomalies at the Bureau of Corrections, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said yesterday.
Sotto, who did not name the new witnesses, told reporters he signed the subpoenas for the attendance of the four witnesses to the fifth hearing of the joint hearing of the Blue Ribbon and justice committees.
The witnesses’ testimonies would still be connected to the anomalous grant of good conduct time allowances (GCTA) to reduce the sentences of inmates, which triggered the investigation.
“We expect them to be able to tell everything that has happened in the Bureau of Corrections before up to the present and how we will be able to stop it, and how we will be able to build a better penitentiary in the future so that these events will no longer happen,” Sotto said.
The inquiry was triggered by a plan to release convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez early on good behavior but it has started to branch out into other forms of corruption in the BuCor, like the alleged sale of hospital passes for up to P2 million.
Sotto said he hoped the investigating committees would wrap up the inquiry on the GCTA by today “so that a committee report will be able to hurdle the plenary already.”
Besides, he said, the Blue Ribbon could exercise its power to initiate a motu proprio inquiry into BuCor’s other issues.
Sen. Richard Gordon, Blue Ribbon chair, directed the NBI to analyze the cellphones subpoenaed from Correctional Senior Insp. Maribel Bansil and Correctional Officer 3 Veronica Buño. He suspected that the two may be covering their tracks, as their call logs were empty and all but two or five text messages were deleted.
“We want the NBI to check if the phones were tampered, with messages and call logs deleted… Bakit ka naman magbubura kung wala kang tinatago (Why will you delete them if you are nothing hiding anything)?” Gordon said.
He said the act of deleting call logs and text messages “could be obstruction of justice,” even as Buño said her cellphone had low storage capacity.
“That shows that it is happening, na talagang nanghihingi sila ng pera tapos binura nila para walang makuhang ebidensya (they are really asking for money, then deleted everything so there would be no evidence),” Gordon said.
In a September 5 hearing, Yolanda Camilon accused Bansil of asking P50,000 from her in exchange for the early release of her common-law spouse Godfrey Gamboa on good behavior.
A review being done by a joint committee of the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior and Local Government on the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 10592, including the re-computation of the GCTA, inmates is almost done, said Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete.
The committee has until today to complete the review. Its report will be submitted to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año for review and evaluation.
The discovery of irregularities surrounding the release of heinous crimes convicts based on the GCTA has led to the sacking of BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon and the suspension by the Ombudsman of 27 BuCor officials and employees.
Around 2,000 convicts of heinous crimes have been released for good behavior since 2014 or a year after RA 10592 was passed. President Duterte has told the freed heinous crimes convicts to surrender.
As of Tuesday, at least 140 of them are back in BuCor custody.
A foreigner freed on good conduct was able to leave the country before Duterte issued the surrender order, the DOJ said.
Perete said this was because the Bureau of Immigration has issued a deportation order for him.
Perete though did not give the identity or citizenship of the foreigner.
Earlier, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said four Chinese drug lords identified as Chan Chit Yue, Kin San Ho, Ching Che and Wu Hing Sum were freed on good conduct although their deportation was put on hold amid the GCTA controversy.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission should stop its investigations since the Ombudsman has already taken over the probe.
“I think PACC knows it. When the Ombudsman takes over, all agencies will have to defer to the Ombudsman, because that is the constitutional body and precisely tasked to investigate,” Panelo said in an interview by CNN Philippines.
The PACC, in conducting its own probe, said the President has ordered the agency to investigate BuCor, and its mandate is separate from that of the Ombudsman. – With Ashzel Hachero and Jocelyn Montemayor